Every week is a fresh opportunity for NFL prospects to build their film resume and do something to impress NFL decision-makers. While the college football season is now seven weeks old, most SEC, ACC, and Big 12 teams have only played three games and we are still a few weeks away from welcoming the Big Ten and Pac-12 to the party.
While there were several outstanding prospect performances this weekend, these five caught my eye as they elevated their draft stock.
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Nick Saban is known for his defensive units being dominant, but that identity is slipping away—especially after the Tide surrendered 48 points and 647 yards to Ole Miss on Saturday. The good news is that Alabama’s offense is carrying the football team, producing 63 points and 723 yards of offense against the Rebels, and improving to 3-0.
While there were several standouts for the Alabama offense on Saturday, none were more significant than running back Najee Harris, who rushed the ball 23 times for 206 yards and five touchdowns while adding three receptions for 42 yards. In a shootout like the one Alabama played in on Saturday, scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals is critical and Harris finding the end zone on five occasions made the difference in the contest.
Harris is a bruising runner that is simply hard to tackle and as a result, produces big plays. Harris continues to prove he can be a bellcow back and carry the offense with ability to contribute on every down.
In a year full of uncertainty in all facets of life, it sure does appear that we know the Georgia Bulldogs defense is elite. After dominant performances to start the season against Arkansas and Auburn, Georgia shut down Tennessee’s offense en route to a 44-21 victory. After surrendering 21 points (including a defensive touchdown), Georgia tightened the screws in the second half after trailing 21-17 at halftime and did not allow the Volunteers to score a point after the break. Georgia limited Tennessee to 13 first downs, 214 total yards, and negative one rushing yard.
Several Bulldogs defenders shined on Saturday, so I’m going to highlight one from each level of the defense. Up front, edge rusher Azeez Ojulari showed off his ability to rush the passer while collecting two sacks and two tackles for loss. His burst and bend around the outside edge track was evident against a talented Vols offensive line. On the second level, Monty Rice was the star. His range, trigger, and urgency shined as he logged eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, two fumble recoveries, and scored a defensive touchdown. In the secondary, cornerback Eric Stokes made the most noise with his sticky coverage and plays on the football. He tallied two pass breakups and an interception. Stokes did not concede a single completion in coverage.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
The Gators weren’t able to hold off Texas A&M on Saturday, but Kadarius Toney continues to impress this season. Injuries have limited Toney in previous seasons, but there has always been a spark every time he touches the football. So far in 2020, those opportunities have come more frequently and the skill set he is showcasing is exciting.
Against the Aggies, Toney had a team-high seven receptions for 92 yards with two touchdowns while adding a rush for nine yards. Toney is electric with the ball in his hands, showcasing terrific burst, creativity, contact balance, and competitive toughness. What made Saturday so impressive is how he contributed at all levels of the field. Not only did he uncover quickly and win in the short to intermediate areas of the field, but his vertical receiving skills were also on display. Saturday was an outstanding showcase for the entire breadth of how Toney can be productive.
North Carolina Running Backs
For the first time since 2015, North Carolina found itself ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll and its first test with such a high ranking came on Saturday against Virginia Tech. While the Tar Heels are known for their ability to pass the football with Sam Howell at quarterback, the reason North Carolina knocked off the Hokies was its rushing attack.
In a 56-45 victory on Saturday, Michael Carter had 17 carries for 214 yards and two touchdowns with a reception for 15 yards, while Javonte Williams logged 20 rushes for 169 yards with two touchdowns and 55 more receiving yards. The tandem combined for 413 yards from scrimmage with four total touchdowns on 41 touches.
Carter’s vision and contact balance shined while Williams' acceleration and creativity as a runner were on full display. North Carolina features a balanced offense that is primed to make noise in the ACC.
Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
The 2021 crop of wide receiver prospects is shaping up to be an outstanding group. While many perceive Ja’Marr Chase to be the best of the bunch, him opting out of the season has opened the door for Marshall to shine and he has.
Missouri proved to be too much for LSU on Saturday, but Marshall was the reason LSU had a chance in the Tigers’ 45-41 loss. For the game, Marshall tallied 11 receptions for 235 yards with three touchdowns. Marshall showed off his physicality, ball skills, vertical receiving talent, and ability to win post-catch.
While the 2020 version of the LSU Tigers doesn’t resemble much of last year’s championship squad, Marshall has 21 catches for 424 yards and seven touchdowns in three games against SEC competition as he climbs the receiver rankings.
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